Many people say their canine companion is their best friend. However, for individuals with specific physical, psychological, or neurological needs, emotional support dogs and service dogs for anxiety are an invaluable partner.
In this guide, we'll go over everything you need to know about service dogs for anxiety. You'll find out how dogs help people with anxiety, how to get a service dog, how much they cost, and much more.
Let's dive in.
Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Dogs
Do you know the difference between service dogs and emotional support dogs? Psychiatric service and emotional support dogs have different roles, rights, and jobs in the lives of the people they help.
Service dogs are selected and trained to perform tasks and do work that helps mitigate for their handler's disability. Service dogs are taught and trained to team up with their disabled partner with the aim of ensuring that their partner attains safety and independence, which may be limited by their disability.
The dogs are provided with training that is directly related to the person’s disability.
- First 6-8 Weeks: They start training with simple commands such as sit, stay, heel and come.
- 5 Months: They are introduced into the Inmate Canine Assistance Program (ICAP).
- 1 Year: They will have learned about 30 commands.
- 2 Years: The service dog is fully trained.
This training enables them to lead the blind, open doors for persons in a wheelchair, alert a deaf person in case of sounds such as an alarm clock, or calm a person who suffers from a panic attack.
Before getting a PSD, it is important that you determine whether you can fit it into your lifestyle and budget. Remember that getting service dog for the purpose of mitigating your disability is a personal choice.
Service dogs are allowed by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) to accompany their human everywhere, even into establishments where pets are not allowed. However, if the service dog is out of control, and the handler is unable to monitor it, the dog may be asked to leave the premise.
Emotional Support Dogs
Emotional support dogs are not supposed to undergo any training. Their primary purpose is to provide their owners with emotional comfort. These dogs tremendously benefit their owner psychologically.
Emotional support dogs have a natural gift of comfort, companionship and unconditional affection that is therapeutic to psychological conditions such as depression.
Their mere presence is able to mitigate the psychological symptoms associated with their handlers’ condition.
The emotional support dog only has two legal protections.
- The dog is allowed to fly with their emotionally or psychologically disabled handler in a cabin or an aircraft.
- The dog is allowed to stay in a no-pet housing.
However, you need to present a letter from a licensed mental health professional to airlines and property managers, stating that you are emotionally disabled and that they have prescribed an emotional support dog.
In all other instances, no public or private entity is required by law to allow your emotional support dog to accompany you.
Types of Service Dogs
Disability takes many forms including respiratory, digestive, neurological, circulatory and reproductive systems.
Service dogs are usually trained to assist individuals with disabilities such as Diabetes, Epilepsy, Autism, Sensory, and issues.
Guide dogs are paired with the blind and visually impaired persons. With the help of a guide dog, they can venture outside and maneuver their way around obstacle even crossing roads.
This dog is generally trained to assist the deaf and hearing-impaired persons.
They alert their partners to various household sounds such as
- The alarm clock
- A crying baby
- A doorbell
- Name call
- Oven buzzer
- Smoke alarm
- A door knock or telephone
Seizure Assistance Dogs
These dogs are highly trained to work with persons who have epilepsy or other seizure disorders.
Their primary responsibility is to alert others in case their partner is suffering from an attack and preventing their handler from falling at the onset of a seizure.
Mobility Assistance Dogs
These are dogs trained to help people in wheelchairs or with other physical disabilities.
These dogs are taught and trained to open doors, retrieve dropped items, steer the wheelchair into the right direction when necessary and even help pay at the cash register when shopping.
These dogs also help to offer support and balance for people with mobility impairment.
Autism Assistance Dogs
These canines are highly trained to conduct physical tasks as well as provide strong emotional support.
Autistic people tend to suffer from sensory overload. The autism assistance dog helps to provide a focal point that helps the person deal with this challenge.
Medical Service Dogs
These are usually trained to help with mobility issues as well as detect signals of seizures, shifting insulin levels and other medical conditions that can contribute to saving their partner.
Mental Health Service Dogs
These dogs undergo strict training to help people suffering from anxiety attacks, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Dissociative Identity Disorder, panic attacks and other mental health disorders.
Best Dog Breeds For Anxiety & Stress
Mental health service dogs or what are better known as psychiatric dogs are canines that are specially trained to help their handler maintain a healthy mental state.
They provide one on one support to people suffering from anxiety attacks, depression, PTSD, and other challenges.
There are various traits to look out for before selecting a breed to train as your service dog.
The size of breed does not matter. Rather, the dog's temperament does.
The dog should show a keenness to please, work well with a partner, be reliable and not easily distracted, and above all be very smart especially due to the training involved.
Here is a list of the best service dogs for anxiety and stress
Labrador retrievers have superior intelligence and an easy disposition. They are the best companions for people suffering from depression or schizophrenia. The Labrador is always in a good mood and can quickly raise the spirits of their human. In addition, they are loyal, eager to please and easily trainable. They also love the outdoors, which encourages their owner to do the same.
Poodles have an exceptional intelligence and are eager to please. they are born performers and are super social. They are very affectionate, and they make wonderful, loyal companions for people suffering from depression and anxiety.
The German shepherd is a natural service dog for anxiety. Their obedient, gentle, calm and dependable nature are the perfect traits for individuals suffering from psychiatric challenges. Shepherds are considered humanlike, and are very easy to train.
Doberman pinschers are a trustworthy and efficient breed. They're known for their guardianship and commanding presence which makes them a great fit for people suffering from panic attacks, PTSD or anxiety. Their robust and commanding presence gives their human a sense of safety and security.
- Remarkably smart
The Border Collie is a highly intelligent breed. This dog is devoted, loyal, friendly and a people pleaser. Their highly intuitive nature enables them to ground their human during panic attacks by providing physical comfort.
Boxers love to hang around people. They provide gentle round the clock companionship which makes them a perfect psychiatric service dog. Boxers are highly recommended for families with kids who have ADHD.
This small dog breed has a loving and cheerful nature. Miniature schnauzers love being part of the family. His vivacious personality easily lifts up his companions’ mood and spirits. This psychiatric service dog is suitable for people suffering from depression and stress. They're easy to train and very obedient to command.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
This little pooch has a friendly, gentle, and quiet nature. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are very smart which makes them easy to train. Their great intuition makes them the perfect service dogs for anxiety.
How Do Psychiatric Service Dogs Help With Anxiety, Stress & Depression?
If you have owned a pet before, then you know just how much fun and affectionate they can be.
Today, dogs are being used to help people suffering from various conditions to cope with their day to day activities.
Dogs have excellent physical and mental health benefits ranging from improvement in blood pressure, heart rate, depression, loneliness, and anxiety.
They offer a source of social contact and bonding which improves overall mental, the psychological and social health of humans. Research shows that dog companionship provides stress relieving and calming effects to people suffering from anxiety.
They are acutely attuned to humans, their behavior, and emotions. They are able to interpret the tone of your voice, body language, and gestures. Plus, they are able to gauge your emotional state just by looking into your eyes.
According to American Heart Association, owning a pet–particularly a dog–helps people lower their risk of disease of the heart, as well as assist them to manage stress.
How Service Dogs Help People With Depression
People suffer from depression due to previous traumatic experiences such as an illness or injury. Service dog come in handy to help these patients by
- Provide comfort: Comfort contributes to ease everyday depression and anxiety symptoms.
- Companionship: Most people struggling with depression often lack companions. The dog will offer them round the clock companionship.
- Encourages responsibility: Depression tends to make people feel incapable of doing anything. By caring for a dog, people suffering from depression may get the motivation they need to get out of their cocoon. It gives them a new perspective and positive outlook on life.
How Service Dogs Help People With Anxiety Disorders
Most people suffer from anxiety due to previous experiences that may have caused traumatic effects.
Researchers found that after spending just 12 minutes with a dog, anxiety scores significantly dropped 24% for patients with anxiety disorders and 17% for patients suffering from stress.
- Dogs are able to detect signs of an anxiety attack and will help their human cope with anxiety symptoms. They provide immediate comfort measures like preventing strangers from approaching you. They are also taught to bring help to their person in severe cases.
- Most individuals who suffer from anxiety attack tend to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. Dogs will provide companionship to reduce the loneliness and isolation.
- They provide a calming and consistent presence during these attacks. They quickly sense your mood and provide comfort by licking your hand, snuggling, or offering a paw just to distract you from your thoughts.
- Their presence may be reassuring hence helping their handler from experiencing frequent anxiety attacks.
- Service dogs create a sense of calm when the owner is having difficulty in social situations.
- They help with medication. People suffering from anxiety disorders tend to take their medication especially when they are caught up in an anxiety attack. The service dog is taught and trained to remind their handler to take medication and also provide deep pressure therapy which helps their handlers calm down by reducing the severity of anxiety attacks.
- They offer unconditional love and acceptance to their humans. This love is enough to make some people fight their disorder.
How to Get a Service Dog for Anxiety & Depression
To obtain or acquire a mental dog for anxiety and depression, the first thing you need is a prescription to get a psychiatric assistant dog from a licensed mental health professional. The prescription must include an outlined need for the psychiatric dog.
The prescription should have clear and outlined details that show the specific tasks the dog is needed to perform for the handler, and which tasks the handler is unable to perform on their own. Psychiatric service dogs can be purchased through reputable service dog organizations.
On the other hand, you can seek the services of a reputable service dog organization to train your dog to suit your needs.
Here's a helpful video with more information about how to get a service dog for anxiety (legally).
How Much Does a Service Dog for Anxiety Cost?
Service dogs for anxiety cost anything from $200,000 upwards. This cost includes;
You may incur additional costs such as travel expenses.
The cost of having your own dog trained is around $7,200 per year. The dog will require two years of training.
How to Certify a Service or Assistant Dog for Anxiety or Depression
The skills a dog possess are the qualities that will get him certified. There are numerous organizations, which provide certification, ID tags, and service dog supplies to dogs and their handlers. The Service Dog Registration of America is one such organization.
This organization certifies service dogs for anxiety and depression. After your dog has been registered, it is then listed in the central database of service dogs’ psychiatric conditions.
Registering your service dog with a reputable organization enable you to gain access to their support.
The support includes resources where you can purchase additional service dog supplies, a resource where you can report businesses that violate the handlers’ right and other answers to questions regarding being a service dog handler.
Pets have long been known to provide health benefits to people, both physically and mentally.
These non-judgmental, loyal, and trained animals are lifesavers in cases of severe mental disorders like depression and anxiety.
They provide the right kind of care and attention that is needed for mental health patients and lures them towards the right path to recovery